BOSS Eddie Howe said Cherries would take “gentle steps” with recovering defender Tyrone Mings.

The 25-year-old last week made his first appearance since September having been plagued by a troublesome back problem.

He played 45 minutes of Cherries under-21s' 1-0 friendly defeat at Southampton.

Mings was not included for the 2-0 Central League win over Southend at Canford Park Arena on Wednesday, with the Cherries boss instead opting to keep the former Ipswich man in training.

Howe told the Daily Echo: “It is gentle steps for Tyrone at the moment, we don’t want to overload him too much, especially with the type of injury he had.

“But we are pleased with his progress, his attitude and everything about him has been very good since he returned from his injury.”

Mings indicated he was targeting a return for tomorrow’s Premier League battle with Liverpool (5.30pm) and was hoping to be considered for selection.

The Cherries boss added: “I think it might be a bit early for him. He has had one 45 minutes and we decided to train him this week rather than risk exposing him to another game too soon.

“Like most players, he will feel ready but I think it is our job to make the right calls for him. I think with this type of injury the danger is you can feel good one minute and, if you overload the schedule too early, you suffer a setback.

“It is our job to monitor his workload and make sure when he comes back he is able to do everything he needs to. I think we have taken the right steps, hopefully we have got it right and he will be back soon.”

Cherries will also be without Adam Smith for their trip to Anfield as he continues to nurse a knee problem.

“Adam is making good progress, we are pleased with where he is at and, hopefully, we will see him before the end of the season,” added the Cherries boss.